One of the selling points of a small or start-up business is that a small business can often provide more personalized service than a larger competitor. That is attractive to many people because don’t we all want to feel important and cared for?
That small company experience can fall apart quickly if you haven’t planned for help, back-ups, cross-training or have an all-around Plan B when Plan A is broken.
Refer to my previous post about phone coverage and responding to the caller. In my opinion, more business is lost by not responding to a caller than any other method. Most small business owners go into a panic state when they have work backing up, too many appointments to see and calls to make… so they don’t call prospective clients back because they don’t want to have to tell them they may have to wait a month or so. I can assure you that most people – even if they cannot wait for you – will appreciate the call back and you will remain in their rotation of ‘people to call’. If they do not receive a call back, they will assume you do not care about their business and not call you in the future.
So, I guess what I am saying is honesty is your best Plan B. Inform your client of your time-frame without making excuses. They will appreciate it and, even if they never used your services before, they may decide to wait for you … because you must be worth it if other people are using your service!
Cultivate relationships with people that can help you when you need help; this will help you to stick to a timeline that you have given to your client. There are many single entrepreneurs out there that would be willing to back you up when needed and work under your company umbrella. This may be helpful in an emergency, when you are snowed under with work or when doing a large project. Search them out now, not when you need them. When that person will have contact with your customer, always make sure to introduce them appropriately. A client should never feel they were foisted off on someone else; they should feel that you have selected this person for their job.
Outsource things that you are not good at or don’t like to do. Yes, it will cost you some money, but not as much as losing a job or not doing something well. Don’t like paying bills or accounting? Afraid that you won’t be paying the correct taxes at the correct time? Outsource to a bookkeeper or accounting firm. Hate to file? Your office has piles of papers and it’s hard to keep track of proposals and timelines. Hire a student to work a few hours a week to keep you organized. Are there little things about your job that drive you crazy but need to be done? Perhaps a student that has interest in your type of work would enjoy the learning experience and take that load off of you while they learn your business.
Have hand-outs, business cards and/or brochures about your company. These items make you appear larger than you are and are an easy way to advertise. Outsource their creation to someone that can design them and oversee the project.
Don’t start something that you can’t continue or maintain. If you start to send thank you notes each time you do a job or someone gives you a referral, make sure to continue that practice even if you have to outsource it. As you grow or get busier, clients don’t want to feel they are being left behind or forgotten.